An Industrial Policy for Steel?
The Decline of the Democratic Party
On November 27, 1979, less than a month after the EDA plan to save Wisconsin Steel collapsed, U.S. Steel announced that it was closing fifteen mills in eight states. The shutdowns included the Ohio and McDonald Works in Youngstown. Both had been on the chopping block in 1977, but William Kirwan, superintendent for the Youngstown works, had asked for time, and Edgar Speer's sentimental attachment to the place where his career began had saved both mills. There was no room now for decisions based on sentiment. By late 1979, the two facilities, which had opened in 1893, were producing only small orders for about 1,000 customers, all within 150 miles of Youngstown. Then the EPA had decided that the electrostatic precipitators that had been installed on open hearths in 1971 were not good enough. The high cost of transportation still had not been solved. Despite good management and good labor relations, the expenses of an integrated company that generated only the revenues of a minimill had put Ohio and McDonald in the red. 1
With the fifteen closings, U.S. Steel had eliminated about 3 percent of its raw steel capacity. All the closed mills were ones still making open hearth steel. At the finishing end, it closed the wire and plate mills at Fairfield, Alabama, the rod mill at Pittsburg, California, and a few others that were most affected by imports or located far from markets. All told, 13,000 workers lost their jobs. 2
The shutdowns were ordered by new leadership. Edgar Speer had left in